Reflecting on: Showbread – No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical

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Throughout 2014, we’re going to be looking back on some of the best albums that were released 10 years ago and discussing their legacy. Feel free to share your thoughts and memories in the replies. Enjoy!

The screamo explosion of the mid-aughts certainly came with a degree of predictability, but it wasn’t without its curveballs. As the sing/scream/breakdown formula became commonplace with rapid intensity, a few outliers staked their claim with their own brand of the suddenly fashionable sound. The most peculiar of these was, without a doubt, Showbread.

Hailing from the small town of Guyton, Georgia, Showbread stormed onto the scene radar in 2004 after signing with Tooth and Nail Records. What followed was one of the most genre-defying and wildly entertaining spectacles of the year: No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical.

Showbread’s sound, dubbed “raw rock” by the band themselves, was a frenzied mash-up of new-wave screamo, punk and pop rock with a dash of dance-y electronica thrown in for good measure. Visually, the band was a sight to behold, weighing in at seven members strong and featuring two vocalists and a full-fledged keytar player.

Everything about the band – the identical uniforms, the abrasive album title, the confounding artwork, the spastic sounds – seemed crafted to make some sort of statement. By the time you actually press play on the record, you feel prepared for anything. Fortunately, No Sir does not disappoint.

The album’s opening track, “A Llama Eats a Giraffe (And Vice Versa)” hits full throttle with a symphony of wild guitars and fuzzy synthesizers as vocalists Josh Dies and Ivory Mobley trade back and forth shrieks and screams. Amidst the chaos are some truly thought-provoking and unexpected lyrics. As the opening verse closes with, “Patronized you harmonize, a thorax rattles so / Like idealistic jargon every self-respecting hopeful should know”, you feel prepared for a deep tour into the meaning of existence.

Not so fast. The song’s ending gives way to the sounds of a chainsaw before leading into the dirty, distorted guitar riff that kicks off “Dead By Dawn” – the band’s own homage to Evil Dead 2. The track is a bloody tale of the Book of the Dead, capped off with the climactic lines, “The corpses wish to cover me with kisses, so just maybe / I’ll cover this cabin with their blood – hail to the king, baby”.

If this transition of sound and subject seems awkward, maybe that’s the point. No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical is a crash course on societal and cultural quandaries with the band’s own flare for the dramatic serving as the cherry on top of the rock and roll sundae.

Poppy single “Mouth Like a Magazine” examines the good/evil duality that resides inside us all. “The Missing Wife” is an acoustic number telling a tragic tale of guilt turned hopeful with the promise of forgiveness. “Matthias Replaces Judas” is a powerful rock ballad pushed over the top by the guest vocals of Five Iron Frenzy’s Reese Roper.

No Sir is truly chock full of diverse sonic explorations. In the mood to mosh? Turn up the wicked riffs found throughout “Welcome to Plainfield Tobe Hooper”. Looking for some proggy experimentation? Throw on the Nine Inch Nails-influenced “Sampsa Meets Kafka”. Want to dance? Take a listen to the bouncy “So Selfish It’s Funny”.

Whether they’re waxing philosophical, wrestling with religion, or expressing their love for horror films, Showbread has no shortage of palates to paint on. Their quirky style and unpredictable transitions are engaging on a level that extends beyond their musical talents, which are notable to be sure. No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical is not an album crafted for everyone – it’s an album displaying a band exactly as they are. It’s up to the listener to take it or leave it.

Throughout their career, the band would undergo a jaw-dropping amount of member changes, each resulting in a completely new sound. Showbread has never been a band to do the same thing twice. The result is a fan base spanning a broad spectrum of interest. To claim one album as the best would be to ignore the obvious elements of taste and personal preference.

For my money, No Sir captured lighting in a bottle – a dizzying debut of an album that was impossible to replicate, even if you unwisely wanted to try. Its lyrics are razor sharp and its sound is raging and unpredictable. It requires patience and repeated listens to grasp. Just be careful – as the band says, “raw rock kills.”

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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